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NBA PREVIEW | LAKER REPORT

Winter Gets a Warm Reception

November 02, 2004|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Former Laker assistant coach Tex Winter, who devised a lot of what went right in the five seasons under Phil Jackson, showed up toward the end of Monday afternoon's practice to trade smiles and handshakes.

The orchestrator of Jackson's triangle offense shared a few laughs with Devean George and took Caron Butler's hand when the new Laker approached him reverently to introduce himself.

Winter, 82, then said he was OK with the fact that the triangle had been set aside in favor of Coach Rudy Tomjanovich's up-tempo scheme.

"I'm glad they did," said Winter, who left the Lakers a few days after Jackson in June. "This'll give this kind of team with a new coach a new start, and they won't be loaded up with having to learn a whole new school of basketball. They'll feel more freedom, more relaxed."

Winter, who has homes in Carson and Newport, Ore., will speak Thursday night at Staples Center at a Laker-sponsored event called "Basketball 101."

Winter was sprinkled throughout Jackson's tell-all book but said he hadn't read it. Most notably, Jackson wrote of Winter and Shaquille O'Neal exchanging harsh words during a film session after Game 2 of the Finals last season.

Winter, with a slight grimace, said he was unsure about locker-room material being publicized.

"Anything that happens in that warrior room stays in the warrior room, but he felt like it should be told," Winter said. "He felt like he owed it to the public because of their interest in this franchise. I think it was probably therapy for him too."

All has been forgiven, however: Winter went for lunch Monday ... with Jackson.

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Center Vlade Divac, who has not played yet because of a herniated disk in his back, took part in non-contact drills with the team.

"I'm making huge progress," Divac said. "If I don't have any setbacks, I should be ready soon."

Divac is expected to sit out at least two more weeks. He will start the season on the injured list along with Slava Medvedenko (sore heel) and Devean George (off-season ankle surgery).

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Undrafted shooting guard Tony Bobbitt was waived, meaning point guard Tierre Brown officially won the 15th and final spot on the team.

Brown's contract is not guaranteed, in case Karl Malone decides to return after he recovers from knee surgery.

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Denver assistant coach Michael Cooper will return to Staples Center tonight for his first regular-season game there since coaching the WNBA's Sparks.

"It is mixed emotions simply for the fact that I was able to win two championships there as a coach," said Cooper, who played for the Lakers from 1978 to 1990.

"As a player, I've done nothing in that arena. I'm going there to beat the Lakers and to play a good game. If we do beat them, it would have more meaning. If we were playing at the Forum, it's a different heartache there."

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Denver reserve swingman Bryon Russell, a member of the Lakers last season, doesn't expect much fanfare while playing tonight against his former team. "It's not like I am going to get booed or anything," he said. "I contributed." ... Denver Coach Jeff Bzdelik, when asked about the Lakers' chances this season: "Do not, do not, do not underestimate the Lakers."

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TONIGHT

vs. Denver, 7:30, TNT

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- KLAC (570), KWKW (1130).

Records (last season) -- Lakers 56-26; Nuggets 43-39.

Record vs. Nuggets (2003-04) -- 3-1.

Update -- The Nuggets should again be a playoff team, assuming Carmelo Anthony keeps improving and off-season acquisition Kenyon Martin continues to be a presence down low. The Lakers have lost at home to Denver once in 15 games since 1996.

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